Daryl Morey has made it clear that he would like anyone he acquires to provide strong two-way play, with ball handling being a plus. That’s why when you see a name like the Hawks’ Dejounte Murray pop up, it makes a bit of sense. Murray is widely considered a top-50ish player that could complement (thanks to his improved outside shooting) Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey while ticking the boxes Morey mentioned.
Our Bryan Toporek broke down Murray’s contract and how it could make sense to make a move for the former All-Star.
But as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Monday, the Sixers are actually in a position to make multiple moves. They could swing a deal for someone like Murray and potentially add another role player. Or perhaps eschew the “third star” route and surround Embiid and Maxey with as many high-level role players as possible.
If the Sixers are looking for another 3-and-D wing to add to their bench mix, a guy like the Nets’ Royce O’Neale could easily fit that bill. There are players in the 3-and-D mold who perhaps boast one skill more than the other. O’Neale is a nice balance of both.
The 30-year-old wing has consistently shot the three ball at a high level. O’Neale became a full-time part of the Jazz’s rotation in 2018-19. Since then, he’s hit 38.4% from deep on five attempts per 36 minutes. In each season, O’Neale has seen his attempts per 36 go up — from 3.8 in 2018-19 to 7.6 this season. All the while his accuracy has stayed consistent. This season, O’Neale is hitting 41% of his wide-open threes, something he’d get plenty of as a Sixer.
While with the Nets, he’s seen his two-point percentage plummet. That likely has a lot more to do with his team and teammates in Utah vs. Brooklyn. Because when you look at his offensive game as a whole, it’s pretty solid. He can actually pass, dribble and shoot. He’s not the type of guy you want leading your offense or getting iso possessions, but he can beat overaggressive closeouts, lead a fast break and deliver accurate passes to open players. He generally makes good decisions with the basketball as long as he’s not overextended in his role. He’s an ideal role player next to stars.
While he’s listed at 6-foot-4, O’Neale actually flourishes guarding bigger, stronger players. He spent the bulk of the Sixers-Nets first-round playoff series defending James Harden, who uses his strength as well as any perimeter player in the league. O’Neale uses his 226-pound frame and 6-foot-9 wingspan to bother bigger wings. That would not be such a bad thing to have against a team with two All-Star wings like, say, the Boston Celtics.
And his presence would also up the Sixers’ dog quotient. O’Neale is a tough, physical, playoff-tested player. When Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn went crazy with the double teams against Embiid in last year’s playoffs, O’Neale was one of the most aggressive extra defenders. It got so testy between Harden and O’Neale it eventually led to a Harden ejection (albeit, the ejection felt pretty bogus). The point is O’Neale is the type of player who isn’t afraid to mix it up or take on tough defensive assignments.
Trading for him would be relatively easy from a financial standpoint. O’Neale’s 2023-24 cap hit is $9.2M which the Sixers would have several paths to match. He’s in the final year of his deal, so your offseason flexibility is there. The questions become: what would it take to get him and/or should he be a part of a larger move?
The Sixers could make a trade for someone like Murray and still have assets left over to make a smaller trade for O’Neale. Or they could could gauge the Nets’ interest in packaging O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith. DFS is a jumbo-sized 3-and-D wing that we’ll break down in greater detail in the coming weeks, but that duo could be very intriguing if Morey opts to acquire as much depth as possible around Embiid and Maxey.
No matter which direction the Sixers choose to go, O’Neale would be a solid addition to bolster their depth and add even more toughness.